Don't Say It

March 18, 2017:

In which Bucky ignores the advice of the log title, Tony is awkward about it, Jane is awkward about sleeping in Stark Tower for two days straight doing SCIENCE, and Pepper appears at the end to restore sanity.

Stark Tower, New York


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Steve Rogers, Peggy Carter, James Rhodes, Ribbon, Obadiah Stane


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Stark Tower, much like its namesake, is one of the most obvious figures in the party they call New York City. Lit up with a clean reactor, its lights surviving even blackouts that hit the city at large. The name written on top for all the world to admire. It doesn't hide itself behind anonimity.

…which is why it is perfect for its currect resident.

High atop the tower itself is a penthouse. Crowning the structure along with a helipad, massive balcony and deck. Enertainment is had is the open room at the very top that offers a glorious view of the city.

Those moments of the day where Tony Stark /isn't/ in his labs one might find him there. Like today. Happily sitting out on the deck and enjoying his favorite hobby.

Building things.

Which in this case seems to be some kind of watch.

"So JARVIS, gimme a look see here and what do you think?"

"I think you have not correctly finished the circuits on the left side to a proper safty specification."

"Eh its just a prototype, buddy. It'll be fine!"

"…as you say, sir."

Ever since that one day Jane said she was 'going over to meet Tony Stark,' she hasn't actually… really… come back that much. In fact, she's been going over to Tony's with such increasing frequency that she's reached a point where she's just continuously AT Tony's.

It's not that Bucky is a particularly jealous man, but he is curious just how goddamn awesome Howard's kid can really be that Jane is just there all of the time. Endless science, sure, whatever, he guesses he can see how that would attract Jane, but on the other hand there's got to be more than just endless science, right?

Maybe he's got a really good fondue machine?

Whatever the case, Bucky was also moderately curious about Howard's son to begin with. He knew all the major public character beats, of course, but Bucky had known Howard Stark personally and smoked and drank with him (even if thinking about him now sometimes gives him dull headaches for unknown reasons), and he was interested in the boy on a way more personal level than just reading about all the sexual exploits and frittering of cash.

Such it is that this fine evening, just as Tony thinks he's going to have some time to himself to tinker, someone shows up to ruin all that.

"I'm gonna need my own key if my girlfriend's gonna be at your house 24/7," a voice speaks up dryly behind Stark. Turning to look will reveal the semi-familiar form of James 'Bucky' Barnes silhouetted in the doors leading out to the deck, leaning against the frame with his arms folded.

"Your security could use work in some places," he adds, as an afterthought.

To his credit Tony isn't slow to react.

The strange voice has him spinnning around and aiming the watch on his wrist towards Bucky. That watch starts to shift. Impossibily its mass seems to double. Then double again as it continues to unfold into a modified Iron Man gauntlet, the repulsor there starts to hum and…

…then the left side sparks and starts to smoke as Tony curses and begins to shake his hand and arm to pull the piece off to make sure his shirt doesn't catch on fire.

"Fine! Before you say anything it /wasn't/ finished on the left side." He doesn't seem to be talking to Bucky. "And arn't you supposed to be security? Super advanced security that is supposed to tell me when people are sneaking up on me?"

"Pardon, sir. Mister Barnes did not seem hostile. You have met him before." Does JARVIS sound smug? Yes. Maybe slightly.

"I meet a lot of people," Tony mutters before turning back towards Bucky as he throws the watch pieces on his table, casually flinging what could be worth billions like it was a paperweight.

"So, you here to beat me up for stealing your girlfriend or something?" A pause. "Technicly I havn't stolen her, I just hired her."

A defensive reaction was expected— there's a reason Bucky is sticking close to the doorframe— but the form of it was not. The brief moment of approval at how quickly Tony reacted soon dissolves into caution as that watch does some sort of Iron Man transformative bullshit, repulsor spinning up dangerously—

—and then the whole thing fizzes and nearly sets Tony on fire.

Bucky lifts his brows a little as Tony starts arguing with… someone that transparently isn't him, though he gets his answer as to who the hell Tony's talking to when the cool voice of JARVIS makes its reply. He's aware from Jane that JARVIS is an actual AI and not just a human sitting somewhere with the unenviable job of talking to Tony Stark all day, though the idea of having an interchange with an artificially-constructed intelligence is still bizarre to him.

Especially since Tony seems to have just come out the loser. "Did you just get trolled by your own AI?" he inquires, with something very like delight. 'Trolled' is a word Jane recently taught Bucky which has caught on very well with the man, given it describes what he spends about 50 percent of his life doing. He might be Steve's long lost best friend, but it's obvious pretty quickly it's not for any quality of 'being similar to Steve, at least in superficial behavior.'

He does straighten up a little when the questions come in. "Nothing that crass," he says. "Unless you DID steal her. I doubt it, though. I was just looking for her. And curious what you hired her for." Curious about you, also, but that's not really the polite thing to say.

"I see someone has been teaching you modern terms," Tony shoots back. "And JARVIS is a VI. Not an AI. There's a difference. Anyway, if you just make it so they do nothing but follow orders then they an't nearly as useful. So yes, he just trolled me." A pause. "I'm strangely proud. Since I designed him."

He strolls back over to the table to pick up the piece of tech he was working onn and frowns at it a moment. "To clean the floors." He deadpans when questioned about why he hired her. "…really. You have to ask? Do you have any idea how smart she is? I mean its kinda novel just to have someone around who understands what I mean when I start talking about micro-fused nanotubes and tachyon particles."

"Miss Foster is sleeping in the lab at the moment," JARVIS helpfully cuts in. "I can pull up a video feed if you would like Mister Barnes."

Tony waves a hand. "See, just fine! She fell asleep on her microscope again I bet."

"Jane," Bucky explains tersely, when Tony observes that someone's been catching him up on modern terms. "She won't leave me alone until I've seen every fucking cat on the Internet." A pause. "Though she won't let me find out what a 'furry' is."

Probably for the best.

He accepts the correction on VI vs. AI with aplomb, at least, though he seems interested at Tony's preference they have some discretion rather than blindly follow orders. At his pride that JARVIS inherited his own sense of humor. "Sounds like having a kid," he says. "Except less messy."

So far Stark's reminding him of a kid himself: all sarcasm, rebellious sass, and lack of ability to give a straight answer to anything. He's frankly puzzled how Howard produced a boy like this unless the elder Stark got a lot more boring since the last time Bucky ever saw him. Children usually angrily express the opposite of whatever their parents are.

He doesn't say anything, though. He was warned about bringing up Howard around Tony. He just grins at Tony's eyeroll of an answer. "Oh, I have an idea. I was curious if I'm gonna start seeing Jane Foster designs in new iterations of the suit." He is perhaps a little too casual when he adds, "Seems Steve's been here a while and threw in with you early. How's he been adjusting?"

JARVIS interjects to offer a video feed of Jane. Bucky scoffs as Tony opines Jane probably just fell asleep on the microscope again, though it's not a sound of doubt so much as a sound of 'I bet she did.' "Let's see it," he says.

The feed is of Jane, as expected, passed out across her desk. She is not ON the microscope— just next to it— but her phone IS resting gently on the side of her face. Somehow. As if she was going to call someone but just fell asleep instead.

Bucky considers this image for a few moments, before with gleeful maliciousness he takes out his phone and sends Jane a text message.

Showcased across the holofeed, Jane Foster looks familiar: someone who just worked herself too much into total physical exhaustion. Propped up on a stool, and slumped entirely forward along the desk, she sleeps deeply, recklessly, with her phone domino-balanced up against her face. If not for the way she's heaped among all her science to suggest she facedowned on some fifteen-hour binge, she looks strangely peaceful.

Then her phone B E E P S right into her ear.

Jane is awake. She startles up like someone experiencing a premature heart attack, fumbles blindly around on the equipment around her, leans too far back on her stool, and falls right off. She disappears off frame.

Tony Stark is, at least on the surface, a child in many ways. Just one whose mind works several levels above most people. At least on the surface. Its a defense mechanism, a shell around something else that precious few people have ever gotten to see. Right now though? Child works.

"Eh can't have her help working on the inner workings of stuff, too many people want it as it is." Tony replies with a smirk. He wouldn't want to put anyone else in the line of fire. "And I'm trying to keep Jane there on the downlow. SHIELD might not like the fact that I poached a scientist, but they wern't doing anything with her! Now on the inside? She's already helped, and her work on nano-armor weave cloth is impressive." A glance at the man. "Her work on you is impressive too, but I'm going to guess that wasn't all her." A smirk towards his arm. "Too much whirrr click not enough quantum mechanics."

He reaches into the thin air and a computer keyboard appears under his fingertips as he starts to type. He notes the woman asleep. The phonecall. The predictable reaction.

"Steve? Oh he's doing alright. Still won't touch the free porntube account I got him, but thats Steve." Tony drawls out easily. "He's trying to fit in and being Captain Wet Blanket, but at least he's our wet blanket." He adds after a moments though. "Whats your story anyway? Popsicle? Time traveler?"

Tony knows who he is, his dad would talk about him.

"Oh yeah…" He reaches out to grab an image window and makes a loose tossing gesture towards Bucky to send it flying over. Opening right next to the video feed.

Comprehensive history of furries. With visual aids.

"Don't say I never did anything for you."


With an air of smug victory, Bucky sleeps his phone and puts it back away. Jane will come find him and slap him if she so chooses to.

He refocuses his attention on Stark as he rattles off what he's got Jane helping with and what she's already done. A pensive look crosses his face as Tony obliquely reveals he's looking out for her by keeping her away from any of the most important trade secrets— the ones that people would kill for— hiding the hint of softness in snark so prickly that most people, not as perceptive as Bucky, is would miss it entirely. For the sake of Tony's facade he doesn't call attention to it. "Makes sense," he says. "She was cagey about SHIELD to begin with. Seems happy working with you though."

Tony's note on the arm causes Bucky's expression to freeze briefly, humor draining away before his features settle into a tired look. "Only a little of the work on it so far is hers," he says. "But she's gonna do a full overhaul. What you see now" He lifts the arm, and it murmurs as it goes, "was the Soviets."

It lowers afterwards, and Bucky pushes the topic to Steve. What he hears brings his eyes to soften briefly. "He won't even touch Peggy," Bucky grumps. "Good luck ever getting him to look at a porn rag." It's Bucky's turn though, it seems, to cover up some emotion with deceptively casual chatter. It's obvious, though, that he was concerned about Steve alone in the modern world, and is relieved that he seems to have found friends.

Tony's question about what 'his story' is, though, is harder to answer. There's a significant silence, before he says, "Popsicle is close enough."

Fortunately, Tony— the master of distracting himself from heavy thoughts— extends that gift briefly to Bucky. He decides, generously, to share the knowledge Jane refuses to. Bucky gets about fifteen seconds into the feed before his expression locks down.

"I went to war for this?" he asks, appalled.

He makes an aimless gesture at the floating image window, as if trying to send it away or turn it off.

"You went to war for a lot of different things, at least this one doesn't want to really hurt anything." Tony points out with a slight shrug. "Mmm though the Soviets. They always did like the whirr click."

His eyes focus on Bucky for a moment, listening to him go between amused with Steve and quiet and almost pained at the questions on his past and his arm. Something to think on eventually, but not something to quiz him on right now. "But of course she's happy working with me. Im Tony Stark." A beat pause. "But really SHIELD is a government group. Even if they don't want to be a government group. It was created by people who did goverment groups so thats what they did. If they want you to build something, you build it. If they don't want you to build something, you don't get to build it. Me? I just gave her a lab and let her have at. I mean really…that is how you get the best work out of a scientist. You just let them…" One hand waves vaguely. "…science."

"Besides…" A smirk. "…she improved the repulsor output of one of my suit systems by over twenty percent the first day she was here. I cann't let that kind of talet just sit annd go to waste."

"True enough," he says of Tony's observation on war, the Soviets, their preferences. The topic keeps him visibly sober, Bucky pensive and withdrawn as long as the subject remains anywhere close to his past, how he died, how he got here… and all the in-between.

An in-between he still can't fully remember. He can recall most of it, but he has the feeling that there's just so much of it that some of it has not yet come to the surface because there is just no room at the forefront of his conscious. Perhaps the most damaging memories are still buried. He doesn't know.

He seems to relax as the topic changes, predictably, to 1) how awesome Tony Stark is 2) how much better working with him is than working with SHIELD is, because SHIELD is big government no matter how hard they try to disavow that. Bucky looks pensive at that— Steve wasn't always the best at falling into lockstep, and he did think SHIELD was an odd choice— though he can guess why he naturally fell in.

"It was created by Peggy," he says, before more carefully: "And your father, as I understand. So it probably began with the best of intentions, but along the way…" He shrugs. "The best defense is often control, I guess."

He does seem troubled at the idea of 'a scientist's best work' coming out when they are simply allowed to have at. "The best work, probably," he says. "Maybe not always the most ethical." He can remember the needles of his captivity, always a different injection and always with a different result, up until the final injection just made him feel really good and then the injections stopped. For a while.

It's talk of Jane, predictably, that pulls him out of his reverie. "Of course she did," he says of her day-one accomplishment, with muted affection. "When we first met she came up with… some kind of rotational improvement to my wrist that solved decades of problems with its mobility."

A shake of his head at something that was said. A slight smirk comes from Stark. "Its cause Aunt Peg had a hand in it that I let them get there foot in the door. That woman had a good head—has a good head?" Then a pauses. "This is really confusing. Young Peggy when I grew up with Aunt Peg and now young Peggy is all hot and…" A pause. "I just went and made it awkward didn't I? Yup. Did. SO! You want some ice tea while we wait for Jane to get up here and throw you off the roof?" He asks as he's walking backwards towards the bar. "Or whatever, I don't even know what I have up here. JARVIS what did I tell you to get?"

"One of everything I believe, sir."

A snap point at…well nothing really since JARVIS isn't there. "Yup. So whatever you want."

"Gonna disagree with you though, not sure what the best defense is really. Control likely isn't it though. Cause then, if we get into the the whole ethics debate, what if the people in control tell you to do something thats not ethical? Not saying there shouldn't be oversight, but too much oversight and you end up back with people with colored faces trying to manipulate the world."

See what he did there?

"Anyway, nothing non-ethical here though. I don't go into that. Thats how you get. I don't know. Killer robots."

Aunt Peg, Tony says. Bucky does a visible double-take at that: much in the same way Tony does a double-take at the idea of hot young Peggy, except in the reverse direction.

"A very good head," Bucky says, though his expression kinda wants to say 'couple of other really good things too.' Which is probably absolutely not what Tony wants to hear right now, and for now Bucky spares him, because Tony might well fire back with stories of 'Aunt Peg,' and things will just get strange. "Really awkward," is all Bucky settles for saying.

In lieu of further awkwardness, Tony offers iced tea— or whatever else he's got. "Nah, I'm good, but thanks," he says. "I'll just— you care if I smoke? People don't seem to do it much anymore." He takes a pack out of his pocket, turning it over. "Bizarre."

He frowns a little as Tony speaks of control and ethics. "No," he clarifies. "I don't say that as something I agree with. More as something SHIELD slipped down into believing, over the years, that I don't think I really buy. I've seen firsthand control doesn't necessarily guarantee safety or success." He hesitates. "I lived firsthand the idea that people in control can make you do the unethical. Goodbye, 'good defense.'"

He frowns pointedly at the reference Tony makes.

Nothing nonethical here, though, Tony insists. That's how you get killer robots. Bucky looks briefly pained, as if that hit way too close to home, though he doesn't say anything aloud other than, "Good to hear that. Though I've always associated the Stark name with integrity in general. Jane'll be in good company here."

"Well I try not to be bad company," Tony points out. "Seems to drive people off. I'd rather be the life of the party. And sure, I don't mind smoking…" He waves to the outside deck. "…just outside. If Pepper comes up to smell that she'll yell at me for setting something on fire and I haven't done that." Pause. "Today."

It HAPPENS. Always just accidents. Mostly.

"It'll kill ya you know, I mean…" A pause. "…if you went popsicle thenn you have to have been augmented somehow so it might not kill /you/ but it could totally kill a normal person. Eventually. Cancer man. So many studies. But hey your body, I'm the last one to talk about vices."

A beatpause.

"You know I'm up to Mark XVIII or so. I loose track."

Speaking of vices.

Given permission, Bucky taps out a cigarette, offers Tony one if he wants one (out of polite reflex; he continues to do this even though he sometimes gets an appalled reaction in the modern day as if he had offered to kill someone), and then lights up. Predictably, his lighter is a Zippo straight from the 1940s. It seems while he updated readily to accept many things about the modern world, others he stolidly refuses to accept. Like plastic Bic lighters.

"Yeah," he says eventually, exhaling a breath of smoke. "I heard about the cancer thing. Not likely to happen to me though." He grimaces slightly, either at the popsicle terminology or at what the popsicle terminology is an overly cheerful euphemism for. "I'm near enough to Steve. Stuff doesn't really stick to me."

The only thing that really did stick to him physically, in fact, was the horrific scarification where the metal arm was forced onto his body, but Bucky doesn't like thinking about that.

He can be horrified about something else instead. "Mark XVIII?" Bucky's expression is a mix between fascinated and appalled. "In Iron Man suits? With Jane you're gonna be at Mark XL by next week."

"Oh I have plans though the Mark XXX," Tony replies as he waves a cigeratte off. "Most of them on a drawing board, but the'll get there." He adds as he smirks slightly and starts to pour himself a drink. Its tea. In case anyone is wondering.

'Near enough to Steve.' He'll remember that, but again. Not something to poke at yet.

"Gotta keep getting bigger and better, because people who seem to have it out for me for some reason. Which is strange because I am such a likeable guy. They just keep getting more and more determined to…how did the last one put it…tear me out of my suit and squish me like a bug."

He pauses for a moment to take a long drink.

"Such imagery right?"

Fallen in a spread-limbed sprawl across the laboratory floor, still waking up, trying to figure out how she even got here, Jane stares up at the ceiling.

JARVIS, with his eternal virtual patience, kindly asks her if she's all right.

Her lips bunch up and her eyes shine. And in a voice she hasn't used since she was six years old, Jane mumbles sadly, "I don't even know anymore."

She picks herself up, rubbing her shoulder, remembering to check her phone. She squints at the text, her mind still foggy from sleep, not quite getting it. Then she groans.

"They haven't killed each other yet, have they, JARVIS?" she asks. "Not that I might mind — they're not doing something /worse/ together either? Think you could call me the elevator up?"

It's technically a private residence, but either the virtual intelligence is on her side, or the look on Jane Foster's face is not one inviting argument. The doors eventually ding open, and she steps out, still rubbing at her shoulder, frowning a little in preparation as if expecting the worst.

The text in question read, "Upstairs talking to Tony." An ok_hand emoji was appended to the end, for some indecipherable reason. Given Bucky's limited grasp (so far) of emojis, what he intended to say and the emoji he ultimately chooses may not always add up.

As Jane makes her slow, achy way up to the penthouse, a look on her face like a thundercloud, Bucky and Tony continue their amiable talk that is emphatically not 'killing one another.' Especially as Bucky has no idea that Tony Stark's Science Mind is churning with interest at the idea of a second super-soldier with some off-brand serum running in his veins.

He does laugh when Tony professes he doesn't know why everyone wants to kill him because he's just such a likeable guy. "I dunno," he says. "Maybe people get annoyed when not only do they get beat up, they get beat up by a guy who's not taking things seriously enough he shows up blasting AC/DC."

…How does Bucky know how to identify AC/DC?

The answer soon shows up in the doorway. Bucky coughs. "…oh hey," he greets.

"AC/DC is a perfectly good intro song, gives the right amount of umph for the coming fight and usually has a good beat. Though I like to work to different stuff." Tony replies with a shrug as he sips on his drink.

"Besides, if they didn't want to get taken seriously then they shouldn't have chosen to fight me. So really its their fault. Not me." He decides with a nod of certinty.

But JARVIS informs him of an elevator arriving and its occupant.

And as it opens she would find Tony grinning behind Bucky. "Oooooooooh, you're gonna get in trouble~~~"

A smirk.

Then he looks around him towards Jane. "He totally thought I stole you!"

"James," is the first of Jane Foster's many unimpressed words to follow, "what are you even doing —"

And he's /smoking/, to make it worse. Her expression starts at hurt, then goes to annoyed, then ends at exasperated. He's serum-enhanced; it's not like he can even blame it on chemical addiction! Why does no one listen to her ever!

With a ragged sigh that foretells maybe it being best she just let it go, Jane still frowns with slight suspicion — it's /odd/ James just be here, where she's working, without giving her a prior heads-up, and is somehow now talking to Tony Stark himself. Not implausible, because he has every right to have conversations with people, and maybe the two have something to talk about, but still odd!

Of course, then Tony pops up and Makes It Worse. Just as Tonys do.

"What?!" Jane asks breathlessly. She pinches the bridge of her nose like she's still dreaming. "Nobody's been /stolen/ — I'm at work! What are you two up to? Should I just go back to my lab?"

"Yeah, Jane gave me this… entire playlist," Bucky says, fishing out his phone and looking at it, "of everything I missed since 1945. Said it was my homework." He squints at the screen. "Something like a thousand songs on this thing. I did like AC/DC though."

But then it's time for Jane to show up to spoil the fun! Which Tony alludes to aloud helpfully, in a stage whisper of how much trouble Bucky is going to be in. "I am not—" he starts, indignant, before he realizes shit, he probably is.

Bucky sees that progression of emotions across Jane's face to find him smoking. With a guilty sigh he takes the cigarette from his mouth and puts it out. "You didn't come home for… two days," he says severely. "So I just came over to see what the hell was up. And I ran into Tony here. So we started talking."

Tony throws in there that Bucky 'totally thought Tony stole her.' Bucky's expression goes completely flat in that 'why would you say that, no.'

There's a pause. "I knew his dad," he says, retaliatory.


Start Tower seems to be crowed today. Up in the penthouse suite of Tony Stark, there seems to be a bit of a gathering. A meeting of the minds if you will. In other words, Tony Stark has guests.

Special Guests.

Tony just is grinning as he watches the pair of them go back and forth. Jane and Bucky seem to be in a touch of an argument. And Tony just seems to be making it worse.

As is his way.

While he sips his very caffinated tea and leans against the bar the man seem to be enjoying himself. At least until Bucky makes that comment.

"Huh. Did you?" A pause. "Glad someone did."

In her office in Stark Tower, Pepper finishes her last task for the day and packs up to head home. First, though…

"JARVIS, where's Tony?"

"He is in his penthouse, Miss Potts."

"Thank you, JARVIS."

"Shall I notify him that you wish to speak with him?"

"No, it's fine, I'll just drop in quickly before I head home."

"Very good, Miss Potts."

Pepper walks to the elevator that's already waiting for her (because JARVIS is awesome that way) then steps inside and waits while it conveys her up to Tony's penthouse.

With a gentle 'ding', the elevator announces its arrival and the doors open almost silently.

Sometimes, and what Jane is finding with alarming frequency, is that her most threatening and harrowing arguments with James Barnes are when she says /nothing at all/. In fact, she seems to somehow win this one about him smoking — /again/, mind you — with a single look. She'll have to remember that for next time.

But his look of guilt does soften her around the edges, not even her bad moods ones that particularly linger — and then the rest clears him when Bucky accuses her for not coming home for /two days/ due to her recent science binge. It's her turn to wear guilt. "What?" Jane replies, startled. "I didn't — it hasn't been two days!" She checks her watch. She pales, and then tries to hide under the hand lifted to cover her face. She knows she sent texts, had to, but still — but still. What the hell, tunnel vision. "Oh, god, it was two days."

Upper hand lost, and looking sheepish, Jane frowningly lingers closer. "I'm sorry, James. Well, I hope you two have been getting better acquainted at least. And that you two are —"

Insert Howard Stark mention. Followed by awkward Tony Stark answer. Jane stops before she can finish 'getting along', cringing slightly, because super uncomfortable. At least the elevator dings to break the silence.

"It was two days," Bucky says patiently. "I wound up getting a lot of takeout." He lets her guilt be punishment enough.

And he probably could have answered Jane that they were getting along swimmingly, up until Bucky trolls a little too hard in the wrong direction— in defiance of Peggy's warning— and gets, yep, exactly the kind of negative reaction she warned about. Honestly Bucky hadn't really believed the response could be that negative— he liked Howard and couldn't fathom how his own kid would hate him— but the comment he gets in reply? There's so much history in it that he's taken aback.

Awkward silence, broken only by the vague murmur of James' left arm as he shifts slightly. There's not really anything to say to that.

Fortunately, the elevator speaks for them.

"Ah, well, looks like you have another guest," Bucky says into the silence. He starts moving towards Jane to herd her off. "We won't keep you. I should take Jane home so she remembers what showers and food are, anyway."

And at this point Tony realises that his little comment miiiiiiiiight have been a bit too far. But if there is one thing that Tony Stark does well is own up to his mistakes!!

…by covering it with lots and lots of words.

"Annnnnnnnnnnd I went and made it awkward again didn't I?" He drawls as he finishes off his drink. "I do that sometimes. Its true. Still. Didn't need to do that. So Maybe I shouldn't have. But you started it." This towards Bucky just as the elevator dings.

And Pepper steps off.

…now he's the one that might be in trouble.

"Nooo don't runn off yet, you haven't met Pepper!" He gestures towards the elevator. "Look Pepper! I have company! You told me I should talk to more people!" She might have. At some point. And it was more likely something like 'You need to get out more."

"Anyway, Pepper! This is Jane Foster, I kinda hired her to help in the lab. And this is her boyfriend? Fiancee? Boytoy? Something or other Bucky Barnes." A pause. "He's old."

As if that explains everything.

Stepping into the penthouse from the elevator, Pepper immediately notices the awkwardness as the couple appear to be preparing to leave, and Tony clearly starts trying to cover for something. But, that does not mean she can't still be polite.

"Hello, Dr. Foster. Sargeant Barnes." Somehow, probably some magically Pepper way, she already knows who they both are. "It's a pleasure to meet you both."

She'll offer them handshakes if they want, but won't be perturbed if one or both of them don't want to shake her hand. She suspect Jane at least won't think of it.

Jane doesn't fight being herded. She frowns, a little cowed, at Bucky's miserable tales of take-out. She's a monster.

And the elevator doors open, and out walks this fashionable, super-luxurious redhead that Jane, in one glance, mathematically proves is way too good for Tony Stark. He had better hang on to this one!!

"So good to finally meet you, Miss Potts," Jane says eagerly, reaching out to take her hand and shake it, because she wants to make a good first impression with the person who /actually/ runs this corporation — and this tower. Yes, Tony, Jane is absolutely convinced you do nothing but tinker suits and eat dried mango. "And Tony sure has! I'm just… doing all the things, I think. All the things the lab lets me do."

A slight laugh bubbles up out of her, some of that awkwardness forgotten, at the options Tony provides to refer to poor Bucky Barnes. "Definitely boytoy," she confirms, face lit up with a tease. This is what Bucky gets for smoking cigarettes. "Man candy works too. And we probably should be — though, I do need to stop back at the lab —"

It was definitely a sudden escalation Bucky wasn't strictly prepared for. The last time he saw Howard (that he remembers…) was 1945, and the Howard of then was certainly not the Howard that went on to raise Tony Stark. For given values of 'raise.' It was hard for him to really believe that Howard could be so bad that mentioning him would get such a negative reaction.

Guess Howard was!! That or some other drama happened which James certainly wasn't privy to (that he remembers…). He's no stranger to the idea of fraught parent-child relationships, though his own family was fairly stable.

I don't even know who started it at this point," he just grimaces as a sort of peace offering. "I think it got rolling the minute we started talking." Note to self— ask Peggy what on earth happened there, because she just said 'don't mention Howard' and then didn't clarify. Not that Bucky remembers…

…there's a lot he doesn't remember.

Then Pepper materializes, and Bucky gets himself back in some semblance of polite order. Enough to shake her hand when presented. "Pleasure," he says, with that flicker of dissonance he experiences whenever someone calls him Sergeant.

Then Tony and Jane start to go over options of how he should be addressed. And Tony says he's old.

I am NOT old," he says, which is quite funny, because he will certainly pull out his hundred years of objective life on people when it suits HIM to do so. "And I am not— Jesus Christ—"

Man candy does it. He has Jane over his left shoulder in the next moment, carrying her grimly off before she can embarrass them any further. "Ms. Potts— Tony—" he says in cordial parting. "Until next time."

He might be extra motivated to leave Tony to be in trouble.

"Totally old," Tony gives Steve hell about it too. This shall now extend to Bucky. Because they can take it.

…but never to Peggy because he isn't that dumb.

"Stop back by the lab, I'll talk to Pepper here about getting you a pass Bucky, so JARVIS doesn't shoot you or something."

There is a siff from the VI. He would never.

"But she's been really helpful in the lab and I'm /pretty/ sure about to make some kind of cloth thing breath threw that will do…something…" A pause. "…you'll want royalties won't you Jane? Of course you will. You can talk about that later."


He's waving to the pair of them as they head for the elevator. "Later you two! Don't do anything I wouldn't do! Which includes going to sleep before two in the morning!"

"Have a good evening," Pepper calls after the couple, only amused at Bucky literally carrying Jane off. If she's even a tiny bit like Tony, that's kind of what needs to happen to keep her from wanting to 'stop back in the lab for just a moment'. Again.

Tony's last comment called after them earns the inventor a backhanded swat against one arm and a hissed, "Tony!" Though really, that was one of the milder things he could have said.

"Have a great night so nice to meet you again Miss Potts Tony don't let anyone clean the lab I'm not finished OK seriously last time someone made piles and it was really unhelpful — " Jane's rambling voice dopplers away as Bucky carries her away.

The doors shut behind them and Tony leans towards Pepper. "They really are nice people." A pause. "Well Bucky is kinda sassy, but he's like…reverse Steve. Like Steve got all the wet blanketness and Bucky got all the sass. I don't know how that works though, I'm nnot a geneticist. But it sounds right."

A pause. "Jane is brilliant though, she increased the output of my repulsors by twenty percent…" A pause. "…is this where you yell at me for hiring people without telling you first. Because I was totally going to tell you but you were…somewhere else."

"I don't know, Tony. I always thought Steve has a well-hidden sarcastic streak." Pepper can only sigh as Tony tries to justify his having hired Jane. "No, you're fine. JARVIS notified me when you hired her. I've already done all of the hiring paperwork for her. I'll just forward some documents for her to sign, and it'll be completely official." She pauses then, and looks at Tony more seriously.

"But don't think that means you can start hiring people willy-nilly, all right? You need to let me know BEFORE you hire someone from now on."

"I'm not planning on it! You know me, I don't get along with people." Tony replies as he starts to retreat for the bar. "I mean most people. Really just about you and Rhodey are about it that put up with me. Why I have no idea." He adds with a wave of his hand as he goes for more tea.

"I mean really if I had to deal with me I wouldn't put up with me for very long. I'm kinda a jerk. A brilliant jerk, but a jerk." He adds as he turns back towards her. "…besides, its not like she was doing anything where she was anyway." A longer pause. "…lets see. Anything else…oh yeah! Obadiah hired me a assistant…and Iron Monger tried to kill me again."

A beatpause. "It was on the news so I thought I should tell you before you saw it and yelled at me for not telling you."

Pepper shakes her head a little. "Okay, I knew about that last one already." Even though she herself hasn't told Tony that she had to deploy Rescue about a week back when she was in Gotham visiting her friend Barbara Gordon. That one likely didn't end up on the news.

"Who is this new assistant that Stane hired?" She's actually quite displeased by this bit of news, because she's noticed a rather … unfortunate trend in assistants that Obadiah tries to saddle Tony with. And she usually ends up being the one that has to deal with them when there's fallout.

Oh Tony knew, but he didn't say anything. He built Rescue to make sure Pepper to protect her. Not because he was going to use it as an excuse to follow her around all the time.

…even if it was tempting…

Because he got all agitated when she did things like that. He built so many things that night. So many.

"Her name is Hikari, and she's young." A pause. "Even for me she's young. She's good with fashion and clothes and she's not really as assistant. She's more of a…fashion designer. She's good with cloth…also possibily a mutant. I havn't finished all the background checks."

Yeah, that sounds like Stane's typical MO. Another useless supposed assistant. Pepper just nods, apparently still unaware that Tony can and has tracked Rescue. Maybe it's best that she doesn't know.

"Wait, you're doing the background checks personally? I'd have thought you'd have JARVIS or FRIDAY pull all of the data for you." Heaven knows, Pepper relies on the AIs more and more every day. She likely wouldn't get a third of her usual work done if it weren't for them.

"Oh I had JARVIS do it, but its just taking awhile. I didn't have him run it as a priority. Since…fashion assistant." Tony doesn't need many of those. "And I've had him working on a bit more urgent stuff. Like Iron Monger and where he is, who he is, why he really doesn't like me. Beyond the obvious that I'm just too awesome to stand."

…yeah back to that bit about not being able to get along with people.

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